Artur Brzeskot: Military strategy and conventional deterrence

What do military strategy and conventional deterrence have common? It seems to me that these both things are directly related to the matter of how a nation’s armed forces are employed to achieve specific battlefield goals. Therefore we say exactly about military strategy. From strategic perspective all decision makers want to determine how their armed forces are going to be used on the battlefield. They are concern with getting to know probable outcomes when the attacking forces meet the defending forces. Thus decision makers attempt to project primarily the nature of the war. Does the plan of attack – or defense  – the proposed strategy, promise success at a reasonable cost? In sum, such cogitations are fundamental questions of the decision-making process.

In a sense military strategy help us to understand deterrence failures and successes. Thus, all decision makers stand in the face of choice three distinct and narrowly defined strategies: a) the attrition; b) the blitzkrieg; and c) the limited aims strategies. We have to realize that each has different implications for deterrence. If we consider a definition of military strategy at the most general level, an attacker can pursue either limited or unlimited military goals. In more concrete terms, unlimited military objectives can mean total defeat of the opponent’s military forces. However, we should note that unlimited war may not be define as total war. We might accept the cornerstone of total war is unconditional surrender. In other words, we can say that the attacker is pursuing unlimited political objectives.

This situation took place during World War II when the Great Alliance defeated the Axis Powers – Germany, Italy and Japan in 1945. On the other hand it is possible for a state to disarm an opponent completely on the battlefield and not to seek unconditional surrender. In contrast to the first example in 1967 the Israelis decisively defeated the Egyptian military forces (Six Days War), but were well aware that they would not be able to impose political terms on Egypt. Another kind of military strategy is pursuit of a limited objective. It requires the attacker to seize a portion of the opponent’s territory. Of course, a capture is well done when the attacker defeat some of enemy’s forces. However, the principal aim is to conquer territory, not to defeat the opponent’s army. The difference between limited and unlimited goals is clearly reflected in the writings Carl von Clausewitz, Liddell Hart, Giulio Douhet and other military strategists.

If we are going to achieve a specific goal, as an attacker, we have to know how employ our forces so as to do it the best. If an attacker’s goal is to defeat the opponent decisively, an attacker can choose between the attrition and blitzkrieg strategies. In other words, by the attrition strategy, the attacker seeks to defeat his opponent by engaging a lot of battles of annihilation – or set-piece battles. The ultimate success depends on wearing the defense down until resistance is no longer possible. On the other hand, the blitzkrieg, base on the mobility and speed inherent in an armored force to defeat an opponent decisively and to avoid a series of bloody battles.

The massive victories achieved by Germany in the early years of World War II for example: Poland 1939; France 1940; Balkans 1941 … etc. and nearly three decades later by Israel in the Middle East, present that an opponent can be disarmed without numerous battles of annihilation. In my opinion, on the modern battlefield, the blitzkrieg strategy is still the ideal tool for achieving a quick victory at a low cost. In this sense deterrence is likely to fail when a potential attacker considers that he can start a successful blitzkrieg. On the other hand, the attrition strategy can render at best a delayed success at a high cost, but also may very well fail to bring a decisive victory. In this context we can claim that deterrence is greatly strengthened when a potential attacker foresees war as a series of set-piece battlefields.

We try to consider theoretically an armed conflict in which military aims are limited. In this situation an attacker attempts to analyze the best strategy for seizing a slice of the opponent’s territory. It suggests us that neither the attrition nor the blitzkrieg strategies are an optimal choice. Although it is possible to use those strategies, the attacker is very unlikely to do so. Instead he will rely largely on surprise. Why is it? Because the aim is to strike before the victim can mobilize his defenses. This nearly ideal strategy, which is named the limited aims strategy, it gives importance to minimizing contact with the defender If the attacker is able to achieve surprise. We can assume generally that this strategy is likely to be successful and also not very costly.

The blitzkrieg and the attrition strategies are invariably riskier because they are almost always employed in pursuit of a more ambitious objective and because they both involve directly engaging the defender’s forces. From this perspective an attacker has three options. The first two the blitzkrieg and attrition strategies might be used when the aim is to inflict a decisive defeat on the enemy. With the limited aims strategy, on the other hand, the attacker seeks to capture some portion of opponent’s territory.

If we want to theorize generally base on these above definitions we can claim that Putin’s move to seize the peninsula Crimea in 2014 is to be matched to the pattern of the limited aims strategy. First, Russia did not have to concentrate much resources before military action – the invasion had rather a low cost. Second, Russia obtain the effect of a surprise minimizing the contact with the defender. Third, Russian Army is not going to defeat completely Ukraine’s armed forces and to seek unconditional surrender. Fourth, Russia succeed in capturing some portion of Ukraine’s territory and achieving specific political aims, that is to prevent Ukraine’s access to the European Union and NATO. If we analyze wider political factors Russia’s preponderance in this conflict is much more than Ukraine.

In reality, each military strategy has different implications for deterrence. So, likelihood an operation of the latter is connected not only with the defender’s correct choice, but it also depends on which strategy the potential attacker is considering.

Artur Brzeskot: What are Poland interests?

The overriding goal of Polish foreign policy is to ensure the safety and prosperity of the Polish people. In pursuit of that end, Poland has always considered the security of its territory to be of paramount importance. In recent decades, after ending the Cold War, Polish policy makers should also consider two another regions to contain strategic interests important enough to fight and die for: a) Central and b) Eastern Europe. These areas are important because they contain either concentrations of power and critical natural resources, and who controls them has profound effects on the European balance of power.

The Republic of Poland has three distinct strategic interests in the Eastern Europe. Because this region transfers a large percentage of global energy supplies, the most important interest is maintaining access to the critical oil and natural gas located in Russia and post-soviet republics. This objective does not require Poland to control the region itself; it merely needs to ensure that no other country, including Russia, is in position to keep Eastern Europe oil from reaching the Central Europe market. To do this, Poland will have to seek to prevent Russia and any local power from establishing domination in the Eastern Europe to deter outside powers from establishing control of region.

A second strategic interest is discouraging Eastern Europe states from acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) – especially Ukraine and Belarus. The risk here is not the remote possibility of deliberate nuclear attack, nuclear blackmail, or deliberate “nuclear handoff” to terrorist, because such threats are not credible in light of Poland’s membership NATO and America’s own nuclear deterrent. Rather, Poland opposes the spread of WMD in the region because it would make it more difficult to project power into the region and thus might complicate Polish efforts to keep Eastern Europe oil flowing. Furthermore, WMD proliferation also increases the danger of accidental nuclear use. Given the potential for instability in some countries in the area, it also raises the risk that nuclear weapons or other WMD might fall into the wrong hands in the event of a coup or revolt, or be stolen by terrorist from poorly guarded facilities. So, the above arguments, inhibiting the spread of WMD in the region is an important Polish objective.

Third, Poland has an obvious interest in reducing terrorism. This goal requires dismantling existing terrorist networks that threaten Poland and preventing new terror groups from emerging. Both objectives are furthered by cooperating extensively and effectively with countries in the region, mostly in terms of intelligence sharing and other law enforcement activities. It is also imperative that Poland takes all feasible steps to prevent groups like ISIS, al Qaeda and its branches from gaining access to any form of WMD. Terrorist armed with WMD would be more difficult to deter than states with WMD, and they are likely to use them against Poland or its allies. Encouraging political reform and greater democratic participation can assist this goal well. Of course, this requires good relations with key regional powers. Although Poland should be wary of humanitarian interventions, rapid transformation and certainly should not try to spread democracy at the point of a gun.

I believe that Poland should support Ukraine’s existence, because Ukraine’s security is ultimately of critical strategic importance to our country. In the event that Ukraine was conquered, which is extremely unlikely given its considerable military power and its national backlash, Poland’s territorial integrity, its military power, its economic prosperity and its core political values would be jeopardized. By contrast, if oil exports from Russia were significantly reduced, the effects on Poland’s well-being would be profound. Thus, Poland does not support Ukraine’s existence, because the Polish recognize the long history of Ukrainian suffering and believe that it is desirable for the Ukrainian people to have own state, but rather because it makes Poland more secure. There is a strong moral case for supporting Ukraine’s existence, and I believe Poland should remain committed to coming to Ukraine’s aid. But the Polish should do this not only because they think it is morally appropriate, but in the first place, because it is vital to their own national security.